Downtown Tampa high-rise evacuated after broken pipes flood apartments

Residents of a downtown Tampa apartment building were awakened when a major water main break occurred overnight. All were forced to evacuate.

The evacuations took place Friday morning at the 35-story Element, located at 808 North Franklin Street. Tampa firefighters said they responded to a fire alarm around 3:30 a.m. and found "significant flooding inside of the building." 

They started evacuations soon after. One person was trapped in the elevator due to an outage but was rescued.

According to Tampa Fire Rescue, they found significant flooding issues on the 12th and 27th floors, which appear to be sources of the leak. The 27th floor and those below were affected by the flooding. After a further investigation, fire officials said they found a breach in the main municipal water supply line.

The scene Friday morning after the Element was evacuated due to a breach of the main water supply line.

"This is a 35-story building, but from the 27th story down there was significant flooding. From 28 up to 35, it's dry," said Tampa Fire Rescue's spokesperson Jason Penny. "our goal right now is to make sure we can fix the problem and get folks back in as soon and safely as possible."

Photo of the Element in downtown Tampa

Tampa Fire Rescue reported one firefighter had a minor injury and residents were safely evacuated. They will be allowed in small groups to get their belongings. Apartment management is looking for hotels for the residents.

"It appears to be limited right now to just water intrusion onto the floor surface, like surface damage, if you will. Considering recent events, we want to make sure everything is safe with the building," Penny said, acknowledging the Surfside condo collapse last month. "It's a huge inconvenience to be woken up in the middle of the night. I know the building management folks has been engaged to get this wrapped as quickly, but primarily, as safely as possible."

An apartment building nearby, Nine15, offered their lounge for the displaced residents to wait rather than standing in the sun.

"You may see a few new faces today as we do our best to help our neighbors out during this difficult time," according to an email send to Nine15 residents.

The cause of the flooding remains under investigation, and the State Fire Marshall's Office and code enforcement will inspect the property.

There is a total of 395 units. Element was built in 2009.